ESCI 1/72 F-104G Starfighter
Sold in the U.S. as an AMT/ERTL kit
Price: between US$3.00 and $7.50
Date of Review: 22 Jan, 97
The Starfighter has served so long and so well with the Italian Air Force (still equipping two squadrons, even today) that it was no surprise that ESCI eventually chose to portray the airplane in their 1/72nd range. Though AMT has issued the lion's share of the ESCI kits under their own label, ESCI kits of the F-104 can still be found, often for as little as $3.00.
What does that modest purchase price buy? Actually, a nice kit. The surface detail is neatly and subtly engraved, shapes (on the aircraft) are accurate, and the small parts are detailed enough to be pleasing. The kit is billed as represented an F-104G/S, but note that an accurate S cannot be built from the ESCI kit; the S models had larger diameter wheel wells and bulged main gear doors, neither of which are included in the kit. That said, there's no shortage of color schemes for the Gs!
The stock cockpit is nothing to write home about. Instrument panel and side consoles are represented by decals. F-104s were equipped either with the Lockheed or the Martin-Baker ejection seat, and ESCI's seat resembles neither! (NOTE: the AMT-issued kit has correct seats of both types included as additional parts) To fix the problem I took a Lockheed seat from my Hasegawa TF-104G kit, cut down the base of the seat to fit the higher floor, and detailed the seat with True Details seatbelts. Even with stock cockpit parts the result was a very nice cockpit! The canopy is molded in the closed position only, but is very clear.
Landing gear, wheel well doors, and other small parts are well detailed. Ordnance consists of wingtip and lower fuselage mounted Sidewinders, optional tip tanks, optional underwing tanks, and additional Sidewinder rails for the F-104S. The tip tanks are a bit too small in diameter, and might bear replacement with Hasegawa tip tanks, if available. The intakes were dealt with as follows. I painted the interiors first with Floquil Bright Silver. After drying, I masked off the black intake lips and painted these on the inside surface of the intakes and on the intake "bullet".
Assembly otherwise was straightforward. Parts fit well, for the most part, but trial fitting and adjustments were needed to get things just right! My aircraft was painted in the colors of 203 Squadron, JASDF. The color scheme is for an aggressor aircraft; unlike the USAF, the JASDF has no dedicated aggressor squadron, so line aircraft designated for aggressor duty were painted in very colorful schemes! I borrowed from the Hasegawa kit for my decals.
This kit costs a fraction of the outstanding Hasegawa kit and while not done with the considerable aplomb of the Hasegawa kit, it builds up, with a little bit of detailing help, into a very nice model. The price is so agreeable that a collection of the Starfighter's many schemes could be done without major financial outlay!
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